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A blog on UConn women's basketball.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Seattle next stop for Thomas

DYou just never know who is going to be sitting behind you on planes.

As it turned out, the grandmother of former UConn star Mel Thomas was in the seat behind me on my flight this morning from Cincinnati to Philadelphia and in our five or 10 minute conversation I discovered that Mel will be headed to training camp with the Seattle Storm and UConn recruit Samarie Walker was able to make it to Saturday's game against Cincinnati after she had a double-double in leading her Chaminade Julienne team to a 38-28 win over Carroll High. Chaminade Julienne coach Marc Greenberg wasn't sure Samarie would be able to make it to the UConn game since her game was pushed back from 2 to 4 p.m. But Mel's grandmother told me that Samarie was sitting in the same section as the Thomas' family.

The story on how I discovered that the lady behind me was Mel's grandmother is quite interesting.

I was sitting on the plane this morning in the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport hoping to get the heck out of dodge after a less than enjoyable trip (outside of a Friday night dinner at the Montgomery Inn) when Bill Tavares, responding to an e-mail I sent, called my cell. He could hear the announcement that the issue with the nose of the plane had been fixed and we were going to be able to take off after all (only about 90 minute later). He asked "where are you?" I told him that I was in Cincinnati and have been sitting on a plane for some time until the problem with the landing gear could be taken care of. I told him "I can't wait to get out of this Godforsaken city."

That got the attention of Mel's grandma. When I hung up with Bill, she asked me why I didn't like Cincinnati and I spared most of the details of getting lost countless times, being charged nearly three times the price I was quoted for my rental car, the airline attempting to charge me a $150 change fee twice even though they were the ones who changed my flight times, delays both coming into and leaving from Cincinnati, 30 minutes of having a fire alarm in the Philadelphia airport ripping through my eardrums, a nightmare leaving the garage following the Cincinnati game and so on and so forth.

She asked me if I went to the game and I said I did and I covered the team. She then told me who she was and of course the reporter instincts in me took over. When I spoke to Mel last month to write a story on her recently-released book, she was hoping to get herself into a WNBA camp and headed over to Ireland to play for the Waterford Wildcats. I asked me if Mel had any luck getting an invite and she told me Mel has agreed to a contract with the Storm. Mel will be returning to the U.S. in time to be ready for the start of Seattle's training camp. It could be a good fit as Seattle was second to last in the WNBA in 2008 in 3-point percentage. She will join former UConn stars Sue Bird and Swin Cash with the Storm.

One other tid bit of info (this one from Bill Tavares rather than Mel's grandma) is that the WNBA is going back to holding the draft in New Jersey rather than at the site of the Final Four. My boss wanted to get some prices on flights to St. Louis for the Final Four figuring booking flights now would be better than waiting until March. I wanted to find out when the draft was to decide whether it would be worth staying an extra day in St. Louis since Renee Montgomery figures to be a high pick and Bill let me know that is was on April 9, beginning at 3 p.m. in New Jersey. That was the first I had heard of that. I assumed it was going to be held the day after the national championship game in the St. Louis area. I approve of the retroactive move personally. Now I can cover the draft regardless of what happens with UConn in the NCAA tournament.

Speaking of Bird and Cash, they are two of the five UConn grads playing in the EuroLeague quarterfinals.

Bird and Diana Taurasi are key members of reigning champion Spartak Moscow Region (which also features Lauren Jackson and Sylvia Fowles). The defending champs will face a ZVVK USK Prague squad led by Cash and the Connecticut Sun's Lindsay Whalen.

Ex-Huskies Asjha Jones and Svetlana Abrosimova along with Sandrine Gruda, a teammate of Jones and Abrosimova with the 2008 Sun, are members of the UMMC Ekaterinburg squad which will play TEO Vilnius.

Amber Holt (MKB Euroleasing) and Tamika Whitmore (Gambrinus Brno) also are on teams in the hunt for the prestigious EuroLeague title.

The eight best of three quarterfinal series begin Tuesday. Game two will be played on Friday while game three (if necessary) set for Feb. 4.

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